Inmate honored for automotive skills

A Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola inmate is among 30 people in the United States receiving the 2013 World Class Technician Award sponsored by two automotive industry groups.

Shelby J. Arabie, 50, received the award from the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association after testing and obtaining certification from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, known as ASE, in 22 specialty areas.

Arabie gained certification last year in all 51 ASE certifications offered and was recognized as an ASE Triple Master.

The AAIA gives the winners a certificate signed by the presidents of the two organizations, a logo medallion and embroidered shoulder insignia. Their names also are inscribed in an honor book in the Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn, Mich.

Arabie, serving a life sentence for murder, is a leader in the Angola prison’s re-entry program, which offers pre-release training to short-term prisoners from Orleans, Lafayette and St. Tammany parishes in auto repair, auto paint and body work, and welding.

He also helped 20th Judicial District Judge Hal Ware set up a machine shop at the prison, worked on restoring the cell doors of the historic Red Hat cellblock at Angola and is working with Ware and other volunteers to restore one of several large diesel engines once used to generate electricity and pump rainwater from the prison grounds into the Mississippi River.

In 2011, the Pardon Board recommended commuting Arabie’s life sentence to 45 years. The recommendation awaits action by Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Arabie was the only Louisiana recipient of the AAIA award for 2013.